Virginia Barton

23 November 2015: Little Christmas


23 November 2015


It is a fact that we shrink as we get older. Someone, somewhere will know by how much. The top shelf in the kitchen is out of my reach, as are the tops of wardrobes and, annoyingly, the shelf where all the photo albums are kept.

To judge by the amount we eat, appetites have not shrunk in proportion. BH claims he hardly eats anything, and indeed he is a little slimmer; but it depends what’s put before him and I’m pretty sure the haggis on St Andrew’s Day will go down a storm. (I will be seriously worried if it doesn’t.) HM the Queen takes tiny helpings, others leave out potatoes, yet others eat no carbs at all after midday. And Mary “thin as a stick” Quant eats only fruit every other day. Apparently.


Studio shot of a fish in bowl


Yes, we have shrunk and not only in height but in other ways. We “downsized” at Christmas in 2010, which meant shedding not only the shed (sorry!) but BH’s entire library/office/archive. We lost two bedrooms, a garden, laundry room, and dining area. Also a useful space known as the “dwarf’s cupboard” out of which people used to bounce.

Stacks of bedding went; furniture, clothing, pots, crocks, pictures. Bric a brac ended up with family or in charity shops. It was a liberating experience and everyone should do it regularly. In fact, we are due for a repeat.


Entertaining shrank commensurately. No more big jolly drinks or dinner parties. No more forays onto the river or picnics in the park. Now quiet gatherings of two or three max, teetotallers by and large, to BH’s disgust. There is polite chat and nobody swears or produces a musical instrument or says anything salacious about the neighbours or argues about money or religion and rarely about politics. On the other hand, there is a good deal of discussion about health, or TV, or food. It’s pretty sedate and conducive to living forever.

But when a hundred-odd people live at close quarters it’s essential to get on with the neighbours, and all of them are actually far more interesting than one if the trouble is taken to find out.

So it’s a modest little Christmas here, with tokens of seasonal food and not a lot of visiting. BH stays anchored to his chair reading the Christmas cards and scanning the TV schedules. I have been hoarding the presents out of sight in Santa’s Grotto.




Now for some books to hide in your Grotto till Christmas day, although not quite all of them will be available for you to give as presents this year. Firstly, the one that doesn’t come out till next spring:

The Quest for the Gesamtkunstwerk and Richard Wagner by Hilda Meldrum Brown (click here). The title alone will intrigue, and I just hope I’m still alive to at least browse through it.


The second and third titles will be available in December just in time for Christmas:

Parish Churches of Greater London: A Guide by Michael Hodges. Published by the Heritage of London Trust Ltd.


Then a must-have for all you White Fang fans:

Call of the Atlantic: Jack London’s Publishing Odyssey Overseas, 1902-1916 by Joseph McAleer (click here)


All the above authors are known to me, but I have no hesitation in promoting their books; their previous work is well-known to me. Meticulous research is the common characteristic; that and an eye for the unusual detail and “romantic” twist.


My last book is quite different, and I have bought it for a daughter who shares a passion with me for Crossrail, London’s new railway:

Breakthrough: Crossrail’s Tunnelling Story. Available through the London Transport Museum (click here).

I shall read it before it goes into the Grotto and try not to spill tea over it…


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